By Susie Davidson Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Susie Davidson reports, when the pandemic hit, entrepreneur Faith Michaels "did not wallow in misery, but sprang to action -- and did a bit of reinventing."
"When the pandemic hit, I was just gearing up my landscape design company for the best season ever. In an instant, my company was in flux, and I had no idea if I still had clients or employees."
Many small business owners can relate to the predicament Brookline resident and business owner Faith Michaels found herself in earlier this year.
Like many entrepreneurs, Michaels, president of Kids Clothes Club and owner of Faithful Flowers, did not wallow in misery, but sprang to action -- and did a bit of reinventing.
"As a complete shutdown loomed, I promised my staff that I would pay them and not take a profit for as long as I could," she recalled.
Things looked better when the Governor deemed landscape services essential, and using social distancing and sanitization, they got back to work.
But at the same time, Michaels, a Tufts University grad and former television producer who raised three children in Brookline, noticed the great need for personal protection equipment across all sectors, and sprang to action from her home.
"I helped organize maskmakers in my neighborhood, and raised money to purchase KN95 masks and deliver food to hospital staff," she said. "My incredible neighbors sewed hundreds of masks that were delivered into the right hands."
Michaels' front porch became an exchange point for masks, elastic material, and other supplies.
One night, a nurse friend at Brigham and Women's Hospital called to ask if she could provide a face shield. Michaels had no idea what that was. But the following day, she found Jeremy Katz, owner of JK Automotive designs in Stoneham, who retooled his auto interior business to design and produce face shields for the medical community.
Michaels' drive to assist the needy seems boundless. 30 years ago, she founded Kids Clothes Club with a friend, Elaine Shannon. To this day, KCC has provided thousands of underserved children in Greater Boston with new, warm winter coats.
But in the throes of the COVID crisis, Michaels spoke with board members, who agreed to shift focus to shield production.
"With generous donations from Brookline family foundations and hundreds of Brookline citizens, we bought plastic, foam and elastic, and Jeremy began large-scale production," she said. Still, she spent a sleepless night trying to figure out how to assemble the thousands of shields.
But by the next morning, her prayers were answered by Brookline's The Makery craft studio and the Brookline Teen Center.
"We partnered with Makery owner Haley Greenberg, and under the direction of Maddie Jacks, family pods came to the Teen Center -- and in careful, socially-distanced conditions, assembled over 32,000 shields!" Michaels marveled.
Where did they go? "Our volunteer drivers dropped shields to every single Boston hospital, and all smaller hospitals across Massachusetts," she said.
They were also sent to nursing homes, assisted living centers, funeral homes, Rosie's Place, the Pine Street Inn and numerous other sites.
"Boston, Brookline, Sharon and countless other police and fire departments were entirely fitted with the shields," Michaels said.
Drivers witnessed raw emotion from doctors and nurses as they handed off the shields in hospital parking lots. "At this moment in time, shields were not available, and staff were reusing N95 masks. Things were dire," Michaels said.
As requests for shields were coming from all over the country, the group sent them to hard-hit Native American reservations, and sites in California, New York, Connecticut, Virginia -- even France and Africa.
"A note from our African friends remarked that they had never seen this type of face covering, and it was a coveted and life saving item," Michaels reported.
"The combination of Kids' Clothes Club, JK Auto, the Makery, and the citizens of Brookline made the seemingly impossible happen," she said. "Collectively, we turned our anger and frustration into action."
They received notes and photos from doctors, nurses and hospital CEOs, showing how the shields saved lives and helped stop the spread of the virus. Michaels said that the state now handles full production of their own shields, and the group's job is done.
"I could not be more grateful to the citizens of Brookline who came together to fund, assemble, drive, deliver and cheer on this endeavor," she said.
And citizens are rightfully grateful for Michaels' efforts as well.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.